Back to the Basics – The Prevalence of Elder Abuse in California

This week in San Diego, a 20-year old man was accused of mugging a 74 year old College-area resident. Lucas Churchill Homes pleaded not guilty to charges of elder abuse, robbery, burglary, and identity theft. Holmes contacted the victim through a Craigslist dating page. He then showed up at his home on El Cerrito Drive at approximately 1:15am Wednesday morning. Holmes is accused of using an electric stun gun on the man before tying him up, robbing him, and putting him in a bathtub. Allegedly, he stole the elderly man’s credit and debit cards, and manipulated him into revealing his PIN numbers. Holmes was arrested that afternoon, and faces over 10 years in prison should he be convicted. This story highlights the fact that elder abuse is prevalent in this country, including in California.

The National Center on Elder Abuse conducted a study which interviewed 2,000 nursing home residents. Forty-four percent of those residents revealed that either they had been subject to abuse or neglect, had seen a peer abused or neglected. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse is defined as “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether or not harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder. This includes failure by a caregiver to satisfy the elder’s basic needs or protect the elder from harm.” Elder abuse often goes unreported, so it is impossible to know for certain how many seniors are affected by abuse or neglect. The senior may be afraid to report the abuse themselves due to potential retaliation, cognitive impairments or dementia, or because they do not want to report the abuser, a majority of whom are family members.

California Elder Abuse Law

The applicable law punishing elder abuse in California is California Penal Code Section 368(c). Under this statute, a person is guilty of elder abuse if they cause an elderly person to suffer unjustified physical or mental pain, or allows it to occur. Caregivers must follow normal standards of care, and those who fail to adhere to the standard of care, or are negligent when caring for the elderly may be charge with elder abuse.

The punishment for violating this law depends on whether you are charged with felony or misdemeanor elder abuse. The misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $6,000 fine. The felony offense is punishable by two to four years in prison.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of elder abuse, it is vital to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to ensure your rights are protected. Contact Sean F. Leslie, Attorney at Law to discuss your case today.